Two opposition leaders accused soldiers and police in the Maldives of roughing up opposition lawmakers on Monday. They said law-enforcement used pepper spray to prevent them from entering parliament to take part in an impeachment vote against the speaker.
Police said access to the parliament building was restricted by the government because the scheduled parliament session was cancelled. The opposition is trying to unseat Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed, an ally of President Abdulla Yameen, for blocking its requests to summon government officials accused of corruption.
"After Yameen (lost his) parliament majority, he is trying to use both military and police to suppress the opposition," Eva Abdullah, an opposition MP told Reuters via telephone from Male.
"This is almost like a military coup and they take over legislature."
The soldiers and police surrounded the parliament building and stopped 30 opposition legislators from entering the premises, the chairman of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party Hassan Latheef said from Male.
He said the opposition MPs were pepper sprayed and tear gassed by the police, and stopped from entering the parliament. He blamed Yameen for ordering the closure because he was sure of losing the vote.
The police blamed the lawmakers. Police said they were now investigating "a case of obstruction of police duty" against lawmakers who broke into the restricted area around the parliament building which was cordoned off by a police line.
"Maldives Police Service was requested by the Maldives National Defence Force (military) to intervene in clearing out individuals who forcefully entered the parliament building," the police said in a statement.
Is a coup imminent?
The Maldives has been mired in political unrest since Mohamed Nasheed, its first democratically-elected president, was ousted in 2012.
Nasheed in a statement said he was "extremely worried about an imminent coup in the Maldives".
The opposition alleges the Yameen administration is trying to cover up corruption including money laundering. The government has denied the accusations.
The move to impeach the speaker gathered momentum after 10 Yameen loyalists in the 85-member legislature defected and joined the opposition to unseat him.